There are a number of possible routes from Auckland to Wellington and each has its own attractions and things to see and do. The route via State Highway Four (SH 4) as covered below includes the Waitomo and Wanganui regions, both with amazing scenery and activities. This journey is about 640 km and will take at least eight hours driving time.
The main highway from Auckland city to Hamilton in the Waikato is fast and direct. About 125 km, the highways are the best in the country and, subject to traffic flow and time of day, it should take about 90 minutes.
Turn off SH 1 near the Waikato hospital, taking SH 3 to Te Awamutu, where they have world-class Rose Gardens, with over 2500 roses. There is also a Sculpture Park where an interesting Pioneer Walk begins. Just out from Te Awamutu are found the Pirongia Clydesdales, where you can see the home of the horses and some of the carriages they use at their work. The next town is Otorohonga, offering a Kiwi House and Native Bird Park, where there has been a Kiwi breeding program since 1971. New Zealand has some lovely birds so this could be a great palace to explore. Then there is Waitomo Big Bird & Miniature Animal Petting Farm just after the turn-off onto SH 37 on the road to Waitomo. As well as a big statue of the extinct Moa, there are mini horse rides and a daily show with lots of small and friendly animals. The Waitomo Caves complex consists of three Caves, each different and with its own attributes. Perhaps try black water rafting for a real bit of excitement.
The next town south once you rejoin SH 3 again is Te Kuiti, which is the 'Shearing Capital of New Zealand' with a statue of a shearer and sheep overlooking the southern end of the town. A bit further south and you turn onto SH 4 (the Adventure Highway) that will take you past Omaru Falls and onto Taumarunui. An exciting day tour from here is a Rail ride with Forgotten World Adventures when you ride up to 220 km down a disused railway through wild country and dramatic rail workings. It is also possible to catch an 8-hour jet boat tour to the Bridge to Nowhere with the same group. Just south of Taumarunui is the Piriaka Lookout giving you a scenic view of the Whanganui River and King Country landscape. At Owhango there are canoes for hire to tackle the Whakapapa river, and just south is an amazing horseshoe curve in the Main Trunk railway, made to lift the rail 139 metres and creating the Raurimu Spiral. Then there is a viaduct taking the train line across the Makatote River at a height of 79 metres. Raetihi is the next town where you can take a side tour to catch jetboats to the Bridge to Nowhere or call in at a wild west town at Mellonsfolly Ranch. When you reach Whanganui you will find plenty of activities to keep you amused. The Waimarie is the only coal-fired paddle steamer in NZ and has serviced the town since 1899. The Durie Hill elevator is an underground elevator that is right beside the War Memorial. There are incredible views from the top; see all the way from Mt Ruapehu to Mt Taranaki and the Tasman Sea. The river is a prime attraction, with Kowhai Park and its Brontosaurus for the kids on its shores. Virginia Park is a floral treat, with a statue of Peter Pan to delight visitors.
Leaving Whanganui you are once again on SH 3 and then at Bulls, you rejoin SH 1. Ohakea Air Force Museum is the next attraction, detailing the history of the RNZAF. Try out the 'Mosquito Mission' flight simulator. At Sanson, the highway heads towards Palmerston North, with the New Zealand Rugby Museum and Te Manawa Museum of Art, Science and History, a combination museum/ art gallery with a strong focus on Maori. However, unless you take a side trip, Palmerston North is not on your route, but you head south to Foxton and Levin. Foxton Beach and Levin Adventure Park may offer an opportunity for a break before you head to Waikanae. Paraparaumu has the Southward Car Museum and the Tuatara Brewery to entertain you. Paekakariki has several rail-related museums for you to enjoy The final town before reaching your destination is Porirua where the National Police Museum is situated. There is also an Adrenaline Forest attraction and Pirate Cove mini-golf. Entry to the Pataka Art & Museum, and the Te Rauparaha Arena & Aquatic Centre is free. Your last stop for the day will be Wellington city, known as the 'Windy City'.
Pirongia Clydesdales entry by appointment POA
Waitomo Big Bird & miniature Animal Petting Farm Adult $10 Child $5
Black Water Rafting
Forgotten World Adventures
Ongarue Cycling $60 day
Owhango Canoes & kayaks $225 guide hire Adult $100 Child $70
Jetboat to Bridge to Nowhere from Pipiriki Adult $140 Child $70
Mellonsfolly Ranch $120 pp Daytripper
Paddle Steamer Waimarie from $30 pp
Durie Hill Elevator $2 pp
Ohakea RNZAF Museum entrance FOC
New Zealand Rugby Museum Adult $12.50 Child $5
Southwards Car Museum Adult $18 Child $5
Tuatara Brewery Free entry
Paekakariki Station Museum entry free
Steam Inc Adult from $70
Kapiti Coast Tramways Adult $12 Child $6
Porirua Police Museum FOC
Adrenalin Forest from $28
Pirate Cove Adventure Golf from $10
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